God is Grace: "Shake it Off"
Paul & Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:14, 43-53)
A reflection on the Gospel from the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year C)
Written by Mr Casimir Douglas
“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.” - Matthew 10:14
Taylor Swift’s 2014 hit single, Shake it Off, has over 3 billion views on YouTube, and achieved number #1 in sales in countries throughout the world, and is an era-defining song by every metric you could measure. The message hidden deep, deep, beneath Taylor’s lyrical torrent of pithy postmodern platitudes is actually a powerful exhortation to resilience, self-worth, and right-relationship.
Long before Taylor Swift’s sickly sweet pop incantation of the mantra, “shake it off”, 2000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth in the Roman-occupied Province of Judea, exhorted that his Disciples do the same. But there are two key differences. The first, Taylor’s audience is a subscribership of 46.2 million YouTube users, and Jesus’ audience was his Discipleship of 12 Hebrew men. The second, is that whilst Taylor's words can be found on any song lyric website, Jesus’ words are written on our hearts.
In the verse from the Gospel above, Matthew’s Jesus instructs his Disciples that if they, and the Word of God - the Good News that they carry - are rejected in any house or town, that the Disciples must ‘shake off the dust from their feet’ as they leave. In the First Reading from this Sunday’s Mass, set in Antioch, the literal birthplace of Christianity (Acts 11:26), the Apostles Paul and Barnabas did just that. In the passage they are rejected by the Jews when preaching the Risen Christ in the Synagogue on the Sabbath. The Gospel writer, Luke (author of the Acts of the Apostles), ensures that we are aware that the reason the Apostles and the Good News are rejected is due to the jealousy and envy of the Jewish synagogue dwellers, as they are envious of the popularity of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:45). Driven out of the region, Paul and Barnabas, “shook the dust off their feet in protest against them” (Acts 13:51).
So why this shaking of dust from feet? It was customary for pious Jews in Jesus’ lifetime, obsessed with ritual cleanliness, to literally wipe the dust from their sandals as a symbol of their separation from, and denouncement of, Gentile (non-religious) practices in order to distinguish themselves from the ungodly. So why would Jesus, so often at odds with the pious, righteous and hypocritical Pharisaic Jews, insist that his Disciples mirror their practices?
When Paul and Barabas wipe the dust from their feet, this is not a symbol that they have renounced, condemned or separated themselves from the people of Antioch. Notice that it is in fact the Apostles themselves who are renounced, condemned and separated in this passage. But their mission in universality and solidarity of all people’s in Christ, including the pious and jealous Jews of Antioch, continued unabated onto the next town. The town was not rejected, rather, simply left to God’s grace. After all, there are many in the city who are already committed Christians, and other Gentiles and Jews whose hearts are fertile for the Good News (Acts 13:43, Acts 13:48). In keeping with the entreatment of Taylor Swift, Paul and Barnabas’ action of ‘shaking it off’ is simply an action of picking oneself up, and dusting oneself off, and moving on with the journey and the mission, trusting that God’s grace will fill the gap: “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Matthew 19: 26). It is an acknowledgement and an acceptance that the transformation of those who rejected them is possible not by their own hands or effort, but only through God’s grace.
Indeed, the very point of Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the ungodly, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything. This is the full, final and intended effect of the Incarnation, symbolised by its finality in the cross, which is God’s great act of solidarity. As the great Christian mystic and author, Fr Richard Rohr writes: “The goodness of God fills all the gaps of the universe, without discrimination or preference. What else would God do? Grace is what God does to keep all things God has made in love and alive, forever. Grace is not something God gives; grace is who God is.
Therefore, the action of shaking the dust from their feet is not a distancing from the ungodly, it is not an ancient version of extending the middle finger or a thumbing of the nose, but conversely, it is Paul and Barnabas trusting fully in the power of God’s redeeming grace to fill the gap, to bring everything into solidarity and to hold all things together (Colossians 1:17). Taylor Swift’s lyrics form an invitation for us to ‘let go’ and lay down our burden, and shake off the heavy weights we bear and carry with us. Just as Christ invites us let go of our ego, our need for control, our frustration, our anxiety, our fear, our disappointment, and surrender to his cosmic love, and trust that his grace will transform us: “Come all you weary, come gather round near, lay down your heavy burdens and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30). In other words, to trust in Christ is to ‘shake off’ those things we do not need for the journey ahead. So go ahead… shake it off.
Friday 6th May, 2022
It is my intention this term to examine the readings from the Liturgy of Word from Mass each Sunday through the lens of God’s grace in action, active, and acting in the scripture and in our life as a school community. I am capping each reflection at 250 words. I have written that word limit here so that, by God’s grace, I may stick to it.
Dear Parents and Carers,
Grace to you and peace.
I wish to express the warmest of welcomes to all members of the community back to school. Indeed, we wasted no time in engaging our students in the learning journey of Term 2, 2022! We started the term with a gathering in the Piazza for our Monday morning Prayer Assembly. I decided to harness the energy and excitement of our students being back at school by leading them in this rendition of ‘Roar’! We joined together in voice in and movement to remind our students that they are brave, they are strong, and they are ready for the term of learning ahead!
NATIONAL ASSESSMENT PROGRAM - LITERACY & NUMERACY
This time every year, the media trots out the educational ‘experts’ on morning television programming to debate and discuss the purpose and relevance of mandatory national literacy and numeracy testing. I applaud the initiative to have matters regarding the education of the next generation of this country’s leaders on the national agenda, but more important is to have frank and earnest discussion with our students about NAPLAN testing. Are the NAPLAN tests important? Yes. But can any test define your worth as a human being? No! I said as much to the entire student cohort at our School Assembly this week. However, the integrity of testing is critical as it provides valuable data to government agencies, and a valuable diagnostic tool for schools and parents. But the most important aspect of implementing NAPLAN in any school is catering for the wellbeing of our students, and ensuring that they are supported throughout the testing period. NAPLAN has now moved into the digital era, which has ushered in a period of reduced administrative pressure and an increase in the effectiveness of data collection and therefore timeliness of results being provided to parents and schools. I have no doubt that I will be proud of how our students conduct themselves during the NAPLAN tests, and wish to express my sincere gratitude to Deputy Principal, Mrs Niccola Pearce, and our Grade 3 and Grade 5 teachers, for their logistical organisation of the online NAPLAN experience, and their ongoing support and prioritisation of student wellbeing in the midst of this testing.
GOSPEL VALUE AWARDS: INTEGRITY
The following students received a Gospel Value Award during the School Assembly (held via Zoom) on Friday 6th April for an act of RESPECT or INTEGRITY captured by their teacher this week:
|Harry Peters||Prep More|
|Frankie Crumpton||Prep Thomas|
|Ada Amerikanos||Grade 1/2 More|
|Lachlan Connell||Grade 1/2 Saint|
|Grace Stephens||Grade 1/2 Thomas|
|Marlon Rooney||Grade 3/4 More|
|Annika Johns||Grade 3/4 Saint|
|Tohbe Chaston||Grade 3/4 Thomas|
|Alexis Harmey||Grade 5/6 More|
|George Johnston||Grade 5/6 Saint|
|Charlie Hilliard||Grade 5/6 Thomas|
These students will also attend the Principal’s Morning Tea on Tuesday 17th May (Week 3) morning during first break at 10:50am with Mr Douglas, Fr Chathura Silva and Fr Jesse Banez.
This Wednesday, May 4th, we celebrated International Star Wars Day by inviting staff to dress up in their Stars Wars shirts, costumes, or other paraphernalia. And if they didn't own any Star Wars merchandise, then the best way to customise their dress up for May the Fourth was to wear the colour of the lightsaber which most suited their personal character traits. So there were no excuses for not dressing up! As the great and wise Yoda said: 'Do or do not, there is no try". The staff delighted in posing for the Star Wards music that was played over the speakers throughout the day including the Imperial March, Darth Vader's theme, which Ms Nichols thoroughly embraced in her lunch time shenanigans!
CIRCLE OF LIFE
This week our classes engaged in the Circle of Life program. Circle of Life is a values-rich approach to Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) for Catholic Schools. Circle of Life is aligned to the Archdiocese of Hobart guidelines Growing Towards Wholeness. With an emphasis on human dignity, Circle of Life assists young people to grow in integrity. Circle of Life supports parents as the primary educators of their children. Using group presentations, personal stories, digital resources, creative activities, and small group discussions, Circle of Life engages young people in responding to the challenges of growing up and making healthy decisions for themselves and others. I wish to express my sincere gratitude to presenter and facilitator, Monique Hall, whose patience, wisdom and sincerity was appreciated by students and staff alike.
May the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Mr Casimir Douglas
School Photo day is this coming Monday, 9th May 2022.
Students in Grade 2-6 are in formal (green) winter uniform, and students in Kinder - Grade 1 in sports uniform. Green jumpers will not be required to be worn.
Photo ordering is completed through Compass using the link on your Compass app homepage - an email has been sent from MSP Photography with details on how to order.
Sibling photos will be taken before school from 8.30am, and MSP Photography request that students present themselves to the photographers in the Josephite Hall from 8.30am for the sibling photo to be taken.
St Thomas More's would like to share their thoughts on the word harmony and what it means to them. We have created a video and attached for your enjoyment, sharing how our school celebrated Harmony Day 2022.
This term we will hold an unannounced emergency practice with staff and students, to test our response to a potential scenario that staff identify a threat warranting the school go into lockdown (opposite to evacuation).
Like for fire evacuation drills, we recognised the worth to test this process. We have plans in place to make this practice as least disruptive as able. If you have queries you are welcome to call our Safety Officer Simon Natoli on 0400 105 476
Vinnies Community Sleepout
Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery (QVMAG) is currently conducting a Community Survey in order to learn about the style of exhibitions, programs and events people would like to see more of at the Museum and Art Gallery.
Families are encouraged to take a couple of minutes to complete the Survey.
More information can be found on the City of Launceston Council's engagement platform Your Voice Your Launceston via link below:
Autism Tasmania are running free Parent and Carer workshops online as follows:
Early Days – My Child and Autism: Part 1: 11th May 2022 – 10am to 11:30am
Part 2: 12th May 2022 – 10am to 11:30am
Our Early Days workshops are specifically for parents & family members of children aged 0-6
Welcome to Autism: 26th May 2022 – 10am to 2pm
Workshops Face to Face: Launceston
Early Days – My Child and Autism:19th May 2022 – 10am to 2pm
Our Early Days workshops are specifically for parents & family members of children aged 0-6
Building a Partnership with Your Child’s School: 17th May 2022 – 10am to 1pm
Autism and Puberty: 18th May 2022 – 10am to 1pm
Further information on each topic can be found in the attached flyers.
REGISTRATION: Spaces are limited, so registration is essential. Parents / Family members can register through website calendar: Autistic Community Workshop Calendar - Autism Tasmania